Awesome God, You are my God and I will praise You forever and ever. You are truly awesome in power and deed. You are with me no matter where my path takes me…leading me as I try to traverse the waters of faith. Thank you that You are the beacon that lights my way when the course is foggy. Thank you that I can lower my anchor and be held by You. It is by Your strength that I am able to do all things. Thank you that I have a firm foundation on which I can stand. You truly are the God of all seeing…all knowing…all empowering. I am humbled and amazed by You…
Yahweh, you are my hiding place. When there is a storm of life You are always there keeping me safe from harm. When I begin to fear what is happening in my life, You hide me beneath Your wings of peace, hope and love. You hedge me in from all sides so that no harm will befall me. You are my hope. my song and my Deliverer. In You there is no fear, only peace. Thank you for Your loving grace. Than you that Your perfect love casts out all fear. Thank you for the life I have in Christ Jesus, my Rock and my Redeemer.
October 26, 2014
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon Series: The I Am Statements of Jesus
Sermon 5 of Series:
“I Am the Good Shepherd”
John 10:11-16 The Message Bible
“Goodness and Love”
Let us pray…Pray for the Spirit’s leading and that God’s word would be heard…
When I met and married my husband Ray, my whole world changed. God had given me someone who would take care of the girls and I and it was awesome. Before having him in our lives, I spent my life taking care of the girls and making sure they had everything they needed and some of their wants, but to me there seemed to be something missing. When God brought us together I was able to name what it was that was missing. I was missing someone in my life that would take care of me…someone who I felt safe and secure with…someone who would be my “champion” when I just couldn’t do it myself.
Now if any of you truly know Ray, you would know what he is like. He is pretty easy going but when something or someone comes against or threatens his family…well let me just say, “watch out”. There is nothing he wouldn’t do to make sure his family is safe and taken care of. God has given me…and the girls… a vision…an example…of what it looks like when we are cared for by another person who will protect us through thick or thin…even to the point of death.
We, as the body of Christ, have entered into the Season that we begin to journey towards a manger…the Season that we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. You see…Jesus is the Savior of the world but He is so much more than that. As prepare for the pilgrimage we are looking at the seven “I Am” statements that Jesus made while He walked among us. My prayer is that as we do, we will realize what really happened that day, how that one day changed the tide of sin and death. It’s all about the name and what goes along with that very same name…not just who a person is but also what that name implies.
We have talked about the name I Am and that Jesus, the Great I Am, is always with us even when we don’t feel His presence with us in those times when we feel we are walking in a dark tunnel and not seeing the light at the end. OK, so we have talked about how Jesus is The Bread of Life and about how Jesus fills us spiritually and that we never will hunger again for those Spiritual things that we need for our faith walk. And we have even talked about how Jesus gives light for our journey…He is “The Light of the World”. Jesus hems us in…He is “”The Gate” that keeps us safe in the pasture of His love and grace. Jesus…being the perfect gate…truly is “The Good Shepherd” who shepherds us with His love and peace.
Now we have talked about shepherds many times before. But sheep teach us so much about the love and care that Jesus gives us. You see, shepherds in the ancient world and probably even today with some of them had a close relationship with their sheep. They were raised like members of the family and even given names. They were showered with love and affection, just as their children were. Because of this, the sheep would follow the shepherd when they called them. They knew that they were loved, protected and fed by the shepherd. They felt secure and satisfied when they kept close to the shepherd.
Jesus is the ultimate shepherd. He calls to His sheep…He calls to you and to me wanting us to follow Him…wanting us to come to Him for protection and love. Jesus wants to feed us not as the world would feed us on things that don’t last but on things that are eternal. As we keep close to the Good Shepherd we begin to recognize His voice above all the noise, confusion and chaos of the world. We are showered with love and affection because we are dearly loved children of the Most High God. How truly awesome and good is the Good Shepherd…He loved us and proved it by a very tangible way…
In the scripture I read this morning, there are several places verses 11, 15 as well as verses 17-18, in which Jesus states that the Good shepherd Lays down his life for the sheep of His sheepfold… He laid down His life…He lays down His life daily for His sheep. It’s all about Jesus’ sacrificial laying down of His life for all of humanity. How does that make you feel about Jesus? Could He be that perfect person to trust you life with? Could Jesus be your Shepherd leading you into the good pasture as He guards the entrance with His own body and blood? No one made Him. Jesus didn’t have to do this…Jesus chose to do this for you and for me.
There are many who respond in different ways to Jesus’ invitation…to His shepherding. Some just ignore it. Some think it is “to good to be true”. Some think there must be some kind of loop hole…some kind of “bait and switch” going on. But there are others that embrace Jesus’ invitation to come through the narrow gate and live life abundantly. Maybe…just maybe…if we trust and believe we can truly enter that “land flowing with milk and honey” that God promises those who believe. Perhaps if we just stop thinking like the world and walk by faith we will truly live the life we so desperately want. But it begins with surrendering and trusting our lives to the Shepherd of our souls.
Now…just like sheep…we too can wander away at times. Life kind of gets us all turned around and we have trouble finding the path that we were on. The world is full of the siren song…come this way and you will be happy…go that way and have life abundant…follow me and your will find true happiness. But when we decide to go back…when we finally come to our senses…when we are “clothed again and in our right minds”…Jesus is there to welcome us back. Just as the shepherd who found the lost sheep and threw a party because it was found…heaven too has a party and there is great rejoicing when we find our way back into the pasture of peace and joy. But we must enter through the Gate Keeper…the Good Shepherd found in our Risen Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who is the ultimate provider of all we need. Jesus is the One Shepherd who Will and has lain down His life for the sheep of His flock.
So…what’s it going to be? What are you going to choose? Who shall be your shepherd? As a matter of fact if we are already part of the flock what are we going to do with the knowledge of the last part of the scripture I read this morning? “You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd.” Have you wandered away from the Shepherd of your life? Do you know someone who needs to find a Shepherd to lead them to a life full of abundance and love? Are you willing to offer others what you have been so freely given so they too can live a life of joy?
Listen…can you hear the Shepherd calling you back home? Can you hear His voice in the distance? Is He asking you to go out and find His lost ones so that they too can find peace for their own journey of life? Is He asking you to share His Light for the journey? Is He asking you to bring others to the Gate of protection? Is He looking for your help to bring others to the banquet to feast on the Bread of Life? Share the light, bread, protection and peace that are found in our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. You will never be sorry you did…
Pray about The Good Shepherd, shepherding us through life…
God of love and purpose, thank you for using me as you do in the world in which you have placed me. Unlike James and John, wanting to be on your left and right sides, I want to be where you would have me be. Use me for your good purposes. Equip me for those same purpose. Thank you Lord for the coming “deeds” that you have set for me to do. I pray the prayer that John Wesley prayed in saying:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee,
exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.
Have thine own way Lord in me…
God of mercy and hope, thank you that your mercies are new each day. Thank you that each day you give me is a day that I can do your will in the world. Help me to be focused on you and your will in my life and not on the world around me and what it says I should be doing. Help me to hear your still small voice and not the siren sound of the world. Help me to hear your description of who I am and not what the world has labeled me. May I drawer near to you as you draw near to me. Today is a day that YOU have made…I WILL rejoice and be glad in it!
Good Morning God!!!!! What a wonderful day you have provided for me. How awesome it is to know that you will order my steps if I only just ask you too. Well…I am asking you too. I want to be who you would have me be…say what you would have me say…do what you would have me do for you and your glory. I give this day to your good purposes. May I have a listening ear…seeing eyes…and a willing Spirit within me.
Eternal God…my best Friend…thank you for loving me so much that you will never leave me or forsake me. Thank you that when the going gets tough you do not leave me but drawer ever closer to me. Thank you for being with me in the storms of life. When I think of my life without you it is a thought to heavy to bear. You have brought me through so much in my life and I am forever grateful! Lord…use me to help others who are going through their own storm of life…to those who walk in desert place. when there is sadness may I bring joy…where there is despair may I bring hope…where there is anger may I bring reconciliation…where there is injury and brokenness may I bring healing. Empty me and fill me with your joy, light and purpose. May I be a friend to the friendless as you have done for me…
October 12, 2014
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon Series: The I Am Statements of Jesus
Sermon 4 of Series:
“I Am the Gate”
John 10:1-9 CEB
Matthew 7:13-14 CEB
“The Straight and Narrow”
Let us pray…Pray for the Spirit’s leading and that God’s word would be heard…
Have you ever been in a place where you felt completely at peace…you felt protected and loved? We may feel that within our families or we may feel it at a certain place. When I have gone to Rolling Ridge, down in Lawrence, Ma, I feel that peace that goes beyond understanding.
As soon as I get there and step out of my car it feels as if I have stepped on Holy Ground and it almost makes me weep. I feel loved, protected, and safe…I feel the presence of God there watching over me. There is no other place I want to be at that moment in time. The world outside that has it’s siren voice is quieted, even if just for a short time. The world pulls us in so many directions and there are so many roads to follow. There is this narrow entrance there that you have to go through in order to get to the guest house and as soon as I go through it seems as if everything changes in my heart and in my mind…it is more peaceful and calm.
We have entered into the Season that we begin to look forward to the manger…the Season that we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. We know that Jesus is the Savior of the world but He is so much more than that. As we have been preparing to welcome in the babe in the manger, we have been looking at the seven “I Am” statements that Jesus made while He walked among us. My prayer is that as we do, we will realize what really happened that day, how that one day changed the tide of sin and death. It’s all about the name and what goes along with that very same name…not just who but what that name implies.
Now we have talked about how Jesus is The Bread of Life and about how Jesus fills us spiritually and that we never will hunger again for those Spiritual things that we need for our faith walk. We have talked about the name I Am and that Jesus, the Great I Am, is always with us even when we don’t feel His presence with us in those times when we feel we are walking in a dark tunnel and not seeing the light at the end. And we have even talked about how Jesus gives light for our journey…He lights our way even in those times when we don’t see Him… Jesus even hems us in…He keeps us safe within the pasture of life…
The John Scripture I read this morning reminds me of the 23rd Psalm. It reminds me of the 2nd verse as it states “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.” You see…shepherds would protect the sheep from all danger and take them to a place where they would be safe. In the sheepfold, they could rest for the night and be safe from the attacks of wild beasts. The shepherd could also sleep, yet he was willing to lay his life down to protect the sheep and be subject to harm, instead of letting the sheep be in danger. In certain times of the year, the shepherd would lead his sheep away from the village to green pastures where the feeding was better.
While they were away, the sheep were kept in temporary sheepfolds of brush, mud, a cave, or other type sheepfold. In this instance, the shepherd would guard the entry to the sheepfold and lay down in front of the only entrance, to be as the one door to the sheepfold and keep out all harm.
Jesus is that Gate for us. Salvation is found in and through Him…the Gate to the kingdom and no one…I repeat no one…can enter unless they go through the Gate Keeper. As the sheep…as we enter through Him we have freedom to come and go as we please as we are in a place of peace in the midst of plenty…kind of like those sheep who were lead to a place where the feeding was better. We can either feed on what the world has to offer or we can enter through the Gate to feed on goodness and mercy all the days of our lives…
We live in a world that offers us a wide area in which to enter. There is a wide variety of ways to go and the entrance has a big neon sign that says “enter through here…it is a much easier way to go because it is a wide road that you are invited to travel on…” But Jesus tells us of a much narrower road that isn’t easy at times but leads to a life of protection…a life where the Shepherd is able to keep you safe.
In Matthew 7:13-14, we hear of this better way to go. Jesus tells us to “Go in through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is broad and the road wide, so many people enter through it. But the gate that leads to life is narrow and the road difficult, so few people find it.” Jesus is offering us a road that is straight but is also narrow.
Going down that wide road is much easier. We won’t have to set ourselves apart from the world. We won’t have to “Love others as Jesus loved and loves us”. We won’t have to stand up for the gospel and can just “go along to get along”. But Jesus asks us to consider the cost of the wide road that leads to destruction verses that narrow road that leads to life…life abundant.
Jesus is the Gate and He will protect us as we enter in through the true Gate. The world outside the sheepfold is where the wolves lie in wait, but we are to take the gospel message out into the highways and byways, as ‘salt and light.’ Jesus said, “behold I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
At times the path to reach sinners may be rough and dangerous, but with the Lord going before us and leading the way, we will find safety and pasture. Those who enter through Jesus find life, which means we all begin on the outside and need to enter through him. We are all sheep in need of a shepherd, just as we all, like the man born blind, are in need of the light. As we enter through Jesus, the Gate, we carry His light within us and are to carry that light into the world.
So…which gate will you enter through? Will it be the wide Highway that leads to who knows where or through the Narrow Gate by which we know that we will be protected and have an abundant life? Will you and I be light bearers to the world or will we let that light dim so we can “fit in”? The choice is ours to make…which will you choose?
Pray about entering through the true Gate…
Forever God, the Rock on which I stand. Thank you for the firm ground I now have with and in our Risen Lord Jesus. When I was away from your grace, I stood on sinking sand that forever was shifting and changing. When I accepted Jesus you took all that shifting sand and your love and fused it into a firm rock so that I could stand. Thank you! I will ever praise your name! You took all that bad stuff and turned it into something beautiful that displays your light. Thank you my Lord…my God…my Rock…and my Redeemer!
Amazing God, full of compassion and love. It is mind boggling to think of the grace you so freely give me. To think that you pour out your grace on me even though I don’t deserve it is truly a one of your miracles to me. I can’t earn it…Jesus already did the work for me. I can’t pay for it…Jesus already paid the price. I can’t steal it…it is your free gift to humanity through Jesus’ sacrifice. All that I can do is accept it. Lord…I accept your gift of grace this day and forever more. May I share that gift with those whom you put in my path. May they too accept the gift of grace from you because of my actions, may words and my love. I praise you and thank you…you truly are the God above all gods.